84 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Information and Very Interesting!,
This review is from: Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart (Hardcover)
"Super Crunchers" provides a very readable summary of what can be done to improve performance using the incredible volumes of data accumulated in business, government, health care, and education. Why now? One reason is that the massive amounts of data now available make randomization (essential to valid conclusions) much more achievable than in the past; the other is the low and continually falling costs of computers and storage media.
The bulk of Ayres' work consists of examples (names both companies and the software involved) within each of the sectors previously mentioned. Capital One has been running randomized tests since at least 1995 - tests include page layout, and type and size of offers. Google uses data analysis to fuel its web accelerator (uses your past browsing history to predict pages to be called up next), Wal-Mart's analysis of responses to various employment questions is used to rank potential employees, and Continental Airlines follows up on its own data to design follow-up programs for complaining fliers. Capital One's approach has also been used to evaluate various charity donation-matching programs, and could also be used to evaluate potential billboard and magazine ads. (Similarly, TiVo is now being used to evaluate various TV ads, using the same approach and measuring the relative frequency with which various ads are fast-forwarded through.)
"Offermatica" software not only automates randomization (format, type of offer) for a number of firms, it also analyzes the responses in real time, dramatically cutting the cost of experiments. Thus, no more waiting for hyper-controlled experiments in universities and laboratories that conclude, ALL OTHER THINGS BEING EQUAL (that never happens), eg. red is preferred to blue.
Randomized tests are also increasingly being used to evaluate various government programs, finding eg. that additional job location assistance more than paid for itself for those receiving unemployment benefits, guiding HeadStart programs to target those most likely to benefit.
"Super Crunchers'" health care examples were the most impressive. Don Berwick's "100,000 lives" campaign saved 122,342 lives in an 18 month period through persuading about 3,000 hospitals representing 75% of all beds to focus on six areas of improvement identified through data analyses. These included antiseptic placement of central line catheters in ICUs, elevating heads and washing the mouths of those on respirators, adoption of the latest heart attack treatments, and rapid response teams to patent beds.
Bottom Line: "Super Crunchers" is an exciting vision of what is already possible!